Cats. They are a feature of probably any life in one form or another, but I do not find them a particularly pleasant one in mine. I do not wish them ill and can appreciate their lithe beauty and pleasing purr, but I don’t want a cat of my own and I do not want to babysit someone else’s cat. I, however, am a woman of anxious obligation, so when Phil asked me to feed and check on his cat, Vivian, while he was away with his daughter, Daisy, for five days I couldn’t say no.
It really wasn’t that big of a deal. All he wanted me to do was feed Vivian, change her litter and make sure she didn’t get locked out of the house.
The first evening I arrived at Phil’s house I hesitated before negotiating my way up the nearly 100 stairs to his front door. I hesitated because while in the daylight the house gave an aura of quaintness with its English garden, overgrown lilac tree, shake shingles, sunny yellow siding, climbing ivy and draping white flower boxes, at dusk those same features transformed into something somehow sinister. It was like my version of the gingerbread house, enticing you with its goodies even though you suspected there was a wicked wizard waiting inside.
But that was ridiculous, I told myself, as I began up the stairs, stopping short when I noticed out of the corner of my eye what I presumed was Vivian, who looked surprisingly scrawny compared to the last time I had seen her. She was also noticeably skittish compared to her formerly friendly self. What the hell had Phil done to Vivian?
“You poor, neglected thing! How’d you get out here?” I asked Vivian in that voice one instinctively assumes when speaking to kittens or babies, a voice I would otherwise hate. In addition to her physical state, I was surprised to see her outside. Phil told me she’d be inside and cause me no trouble.
Well, Vivian did cause me trouble. She would not come no matter how saccharine my tone and it took numerous trips up and down those
godforsaken stairs in search of something to entice her with before I was finally able to coax her finicky ass into the house. It literally took a couple hours when all was said and done.
I did not come out of the ordeal unscathed.
Of course I didn’t.
I tripped and slipped down the stairs I was forced to repeatedly traverse, up and down like some kind of pyramid slave. I skinned my knees, scrapped my hands and cut my chin on a crystal doorknob when I missed a step in my haste to get Vivian inside before she got away again, which she did. I cried out of pure frustration and by the time the damn cat was safely inside I was an emotional, physical wreck.
I told Vivian I hated her and cursed the ground Phil walked on.
When it came time to pick Phil and Daisy up from the airport and I told them about the Vivian fiasco, he was confused by my description of his beloved cat.
“That doesn’t sound like Vivian. If anything, Vivian is overweight and she doesn’t like going outside.”
“That’s weird because the Vivian inside your house right now is anorexic and I kept finding her outside and had to trap her to get her back inside, numerous times!”
This was when I heard Daisy say under her breath, “Uh oh, that sounds like Not-Vivian”.
"What is Not-Vivian?" I asked.
Apparently, there was an imposter Vivian-look-alike feral cat that hung around Phil’s house and liked to impersonate Vivian to get food. Phil and Daisy had been fooled by this imposter before and thus had gotten in the habit of referring to the wild cat as Not-Vivian in order to differentiate her from the real Vivian.
They hadn’t seen Not-Vivian in a while and figured she’d moved on to new hunting grounds so didn’t think to warn me about her.